The Federal Government of Nigeria has said that the trial of 5,000 suspected members of the terror group Boko Haram detained at different correctional facilities in the country will start very soon.
Aliyu Abubakar, Director-General of Legal Aid Council, made this known on Tuesday during a courtesy visit to the governor of Borno State, the insurgency hub in Northeastern Nigeria.
Abubakar said the inmates were detained at Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri and Kainji correctional facilities over alleged insurgency involvement.
He said the trial would be conducted by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) office, the National Security Adviser (NSA) office, in collaboration with the theatre command of Operation Lafiya Dole.
In 2018, Human Rights Watch (HRW) described Nigeria’s prosecution of suspected Boko Haram members as full of serious legal shortcomings. The authorities were failing to prioritise the prosecution of those most responsible for the group’s atrocities.
In Oct. 2017, authorities began trials of Boko Haram suspects, some of whom had been detained since the conflict began in 2009.
According to the HRW, most of the 1,669 suspects prosecuted in 2017 were charged with providing material and non-violent support to the terrorist group.
HRW noted that people and communities victimised by the group’s brutal attacks had been excluded from observing or testifying in the legal proceedings.
However, Abubakar said the Legal Aid Council was mandated to provide defence for the inmates as some might not be found guilty of the offence.
In 2018, a Nigerian court released 475 people allegedly affiliated with Boko Haram due to lack of evidence.
Abubakar noted that the council has so far interviewed about 283 inmates to ascertain the nature of the crimes they committed.
“As their defence counsel, we have to interview them from time to time to enable us to know their own part of the story,” he said.
“It is so because regardless of the generous crimes they committed, it is possible that out of hundreds, you may find out that one or two persons were innocent of the charges that they are being detained.”
“It was necessary for them to be represented by a counsel to make sure that the official fulfils all the requirements of the provisions of the law.”
“All evidence must be presented against them before the court of the law so that those that were found guilty are prosecuted and face the consequences of their action.”
He praised Operation Lafiya Dole’s efforts in providing the council with access to its detention facility to meet the inmates.